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Driving Influence: Auto Industry Lobbying

January 16, 2013


This article is re-posted from Open Secrets.

The automotive industry is showing its best side this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. But it also looked pretty good to political candidates in the last election, with automakers giving an unprecedented level of campaign donations. Since the industry bailout in 2009, automotive companies have seen considerable growth — and seem to be cashing in some of that spending power in the political realm.DetroitPostcard-thumb-200x125-6326

In the last election cycle, automotive companies spent more than $27.8 million — the most the industry has ever spent on an election by a mile — almost entirely on Republican candidates. In the 2008 election, they spent just $20.3 million. Although the automotive industry has historically favored Republicans, it typically has contributed an average of 76 percent of all donations to Republicans since 1990.

The automotive market as a whole grew by 13.4 percent, with Chrysler seeing the biggest increase (20.6 percent) in domestic sales, and General Motors and Ford posting sales gains of 3.7 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, according to a New York Times report.

Although General Motors donated $58,266 to President Barack Obama in the 2012 election cycle, it spent more on Republicans ($222,211) than on Democrats ($141,750) for the first time since 2006.

While the last election saw an increase in direct contributions to candidates by the industry, the Big Three’s lobbying numbers vary. Fiat, now the majority owner of Chrysler, spent $4.8 million in just the first three quarters of 2012, as much as it spent in all of 2011 (Fiat’s lobbying expenditures soared in 2011 after it became Chrysler’s biggest shareholder).

Ford Motors, another heavy hitter, spent $5.13 million in 2012 through Sept. 30, putting it on track to beat its $6.7 million outlay in 2011. General Motors, on the other hand, one of our lobbying heavy hitters, spent just $5.68 million through September 2012, so likely didn’t surpass its level of almost $11 million in 2011.

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